Mohammad Altaf Bhat was not affiliated with militants as claimed by the police who shot him in Srinagar on Monday, his niece Saima Bhat has said.

Police are refusing to hand over his body to the family by labeling him as an Over Ground Worker (OGW) or “militant associate,” his niece said.
Police are refusing to hand over his body to the family by labeling him as an Over Ground Worker (OGW) or “militant associate,” his niece said. (AFP Archive)

Mohammad Altaf Bhat, who was shot and killed at a gunfight in the outskirts of Srinagar in the India-administered Kashmir on Monday, was used "as a human shield" by the Indian police.

Bhat was a common man and had no affiliation with any militant group as claimed by the police, his niece Saima Bhat said, the local media reported on Tuesday.

“My uncle has been murdered. He was used as a human shield in a staged encounter. He runs a hardware shop and owns the complex where the forces had come for checking,” she said. 

“There was no gunfight in that complex. He was taken three times as human shield for checking and when they couldn’t find anything, he was killed there,” Saima added.

Police are refusing to hand over his body to the family by labeling him as an Over Ground Worker (OGW) or “militant associate,” she said.

“Officials at Saddar police station denied us the body and asked us to return home,” Saima added. 

“We are currently protesting at the Barazulla bridge. But nobody is paying heed to our cries.”

READ MORE: Why is Kashmir seeing a surge in violence?

The Inspector General of Police, Vijay Kumar said on Monday that Bhat “in whose building militants were hiding” was wounded in a militant firing and died later. 

Citing a source and digital evidence, Kumar claimed that the house owner was working as a militant associate. 

“#SrinagarEncounterUpdate: The house owner who was injured in terrorist fire, succumbed to his injuries. #Terrorists have been hiding on top floor of his building. As per source and digital evidence, he has been working as #terror associate. Search is still going on: IGP Kashmir (sic),” said a tweet by the official Kashmir zone police.

Police earlier said that two unidentified militants were killed in a gunfight in the evening hours at Hyderpora area in the outskirts of Srinagar.

The joint forces reached the suspected spot, where the hiding militants fired upon them, which was retaliated, triggering a gunfight, police said. 

As the police theory was contested by the victim's family, triggering public outrage, the police have ordered an investigation into the incident.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies